July 3, 2011

On Baseball: Red Sox vow the promise is there for two struggling Sea Dogs prospects

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

When talking about two promising Red Sox minor leaguers, Stolmy Pimentel and Oscar Tejeda, can we look at the numbers?

click image to enlarge

Stolmy Pimentel went through a tough stretch with the Sea Dogs, but is just 21 in a league with generally older players.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

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Oscar Tejeda of the Sea Dogs continues to be a work in progress, both at bat and at second base. But the talent is there and the Red Sox are hoping he will continue to improve.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

MAINERS IN THE MINORS

(statistics through June 30)

Ryan Baker, Portland, catcher (Yankees): Played five games for Double-A Trenton before going back on the disabled list.

Ryan Flaherty, Portland, Inf/OF (Cubs): Batting .310 with 14 home runs, 62 RBI and a .941 OPS for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies.

Andrew Giobbi, Portland, catcher (Mariners): Was batting .195 for advanced Class A High Desert before going on the disabled list this week.

Mike MacDonald, Camden, pitcher (Blue Jays): Is 5-3 with a 6.32 ERA in 17 games (14 starts) with Triple-A Las Vegas.

Ryan Reid, Portland, pitcher (Rays): Has a 5.91 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 18 appearances (32 innings) for the Triple-A Durham Bulls.

Mark Rogers, Orrs Island, pitcher (Brewers): Remains on the disabled list with the Class A Brevard County Manatees.

NOTES: MacDonald made three relief appearances before starting again on Tuesday, getting the win, allowing four runs over six innings. Flaherty went 3 for 4 Tuesday with a home run and five RBI. Reid's ERA rose nearly two points after allowing seven runs in one inning on June 24.

-- Kevin Thomas

Six and 10. Those are the rankings, respectively, for Pimentel and Tejeda, among Red Sox prospects, according to Baseball America, which annually rates each organization's prospects.

Both in the top 10 -- impressive. But look at the next numbers:

9.20 and .245. The first is Pimentel's earned-run average, the second Tejeda's batting average through Thursday's games.

Add Pimentel's record (0-8) and Tejeda's errors (17) and it looks worse. But here is another number:

21. That is both players' age. Young for Double-A baseball.

Can you expect too much from young players? The answer is yes because of one more number:

40. Both Pimentel and Tejeda were placed on the 40-man roster before the season to make sure the Red Sox held onto them. But by doing so, expectations are raised and a timetable is set for the players' development.

"It certainly puts a bull's-eye on them in terms of the attention they get," said Mike Hazen, who is in charge of the Red Sox player development.

And, Hazen admits, "Their numbers aren't necessarily where they hoped."

But both Hazen and Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles say there's time for both players to improve.

Time, of course, will tell.

First, a little reminder of baseball's roster rules. Each major league team has a 25-man roster (the players actually on the major league team) and a 40-man roster, which includes the 25-man major league team, plus 15 others who are on the disabled list or in the minors, but can be activated to the major league team.

Players are put on the 40-man roster for three reasons -- they are needed in the majors, it is a condition of their contract (Jose Iglesias, for example), or they need to be protected from the Rule V draft, which occurs every December.

Minor league players with a certain number of years (usually four) with an organization and who aren't on the 40-man roster can be "drafted" by another team and placed on its 25-man roster.

Pimentel and Tejeda, who were 16 when they signed with the Red Sox out of the Dominican Republic, were eligible for the Rule V draft this past off-season. The Red Sox, concerned a team might take them, put them on the 40-man roster.

But the clock is ticking. Players on the 40-man roster cannot stay in the minors forever. After three years they will be out of minor league options and must be put on the 25-man roster.

So if Boston is going to keep Pimentel and Tejeda, they must be full-time major leaguers by the 2014 season.

Remember gifted shortstop Argenis Diaz? He was protected on the 40-man roster as a 21-year-old before he reached Double-A in 2008.

But in 2009 he was struggling and still in Portland. The Red Sox traded him to the Pirates. Diaz briefly played in the majors but is now in Triple-A with the Tigers on a minor league contract.

What will be the fate of Pimentel and Tejeda? Their supporters say it's too soon to tell.

"We knew it was going to be a challenge when you push young kids to higher levels," Hazen said. "Both, we feel, are starting to get adjusted a little bit to the level, finally, and are starting to make some improvements.

"Starting to see some consistency over the last few (starts) with Pimentel, and over the last month with Tejeda. ... (Still) it's not where we want them to be."

Pimentel, who started Saturday night and yielded two walks and four hits, has sometimes shown the promise that his fastball and change-up bring. Against New Hampshire in early May, he pitched six shutout innings against the league's best team, allowing three hits and one walk, striking out seven.

But in two starts in early June, Pimentel lasted only 1 1/3 inning each time, allowing a total of 14 earned runs.

The Red Sox have cut back Pimentel's workload, and he pitched a total of five innings over his next two starts.

Boles said "consistency and confidence are definitely the issues at this point."

Pimentel said, "I want to forget about the past and go game-to-game."

Tejeda had a breakout season at Class A Salem last year, batting .307. This season he's slowly coming around, although he excels with runners in scoring position (a .315 average).

Tejeda's play and range at second base have been a work in progress.

"His management of the strike zone has improved. But it definitely needs to keep improving," Boles said. "He's increasing his range (at second base), and creating better accuracy (with his throws)."

Tejeda said he knows he's still learning and can see progress.

Boles believes progress will continue for both players. He said expectations cannot be elevated because of their 40-man roster status.

"Both are ahead of the game. We believe in their ability," Boles said. "There should be no urgency with these two guys. You have to stay even keel with these guys. They're going to be fine, both of them."

In the end, the onus will be on the players.

"Every young player has to go through (struggles)," Hazen said, "and they will have to find their way through it if they're going to be a major league player with the Red Sox."

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases

 

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